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Preview Article from The Columbus Dispatch
Evo rock show undergoes evolution
Evo has evolved.
Shadowbox Live, which staged its inaugural performance-rock piece almost two decades ago, has revised the show for its first revival, which will open Sunday night at the troupe’s Brewery District space.
“This is not a straightforward musical or a rock musical, nor is it storytelling in the classic sense,” said co-creator Stev Guyer, Executive Producer and CEO of the troupe.
Under its original title, Evolution, Evo premiered in Cleveland in 1995, was presented in Columbus in 1996 and taken to New York that fall for what turned out to be a four-week off-Broadway run.
“When we did this show originally, we coined the term ‘performance rock.’ Twenty years later, I don’t have a better title for it,” Guyer said.
“The idea is to give people something to think about.”
Styled as a rock ’n’ roll carnival, the experimental musical-theater piece blends dance, rock music and vaudeville vignettes to explore tensions between ancient human instincts and modern social rules.
“Evo is all about our most basic impulses,” Guyer said.
“We came from a set of experiences that were critically important to our development when humanity was in its infancy, living in caves and running from predators. Now we’re at a place where society has completely changed the rules, and we have to recognize that those instinctual behaviors can betray us.”
Stacie Boord plays the eccentric Ringleader who directs a traveling band of carnies. The troupe performs for the audience while the Ringleader narrates the two-act, two-hour show.
“As the show progresses, the Ringleader peels off layers, like an onion, and you begin to understand who she is. The questions she poses are a way to work through her own personal issues,” Boord said.
“Who are we? Why are we here? What is love? Why does rage come out of nowhere? And why do we feel the way we feel sometimes when it doesn’t seem rational — like the feeling of paranoia, of someone behind you, when you’re in a dark room?”
Choreographer Katy Psenicka faced the challenge of dramatizing a wide range of emotions that surge as people wrestle with their instincts versus their social manners: rage, jealousy, isolation, paranoia, pride, community and camaraderie.
“The show lends itself to dark feelings but also a ton of family feelings,” she said.
Two contrasting groups of dancers help explore and dramatize the dualistic themes, including the fear or excitement of taking risks.
“Risk is extreme fun, but where do you draw the line? What is your instinct telling you to do? And what are the constraints of society telling you to do?” Psenicka said.
“People in today’s world slow themselves down because they become immobilized by a fear of failure or a fear of success. I think it’s really important to get out of your own way and take risks.”
Originally framed with John and Mary Everyman as recurring characters, Evo has been substantially revised over the past four months with different characters (the Everyman couple, for instance, is gone) and fresh dialogue.
“Everything was more cartoonish and over the top in the first production,” said Boord, a primary dancer in and co-choreographer of the 1990s Evo.
“In this rendition, you’ll see more humanity and vulnerability.”
“One of the mistakes of our first show is that it was preachy,” she said.
“This show is like a giant question mark, sparking thoughts.”
Preview by Michael Grossberg, The Columbus Dispatch
Thursday September 25, 2014
"The company of Shadowbox Live dazzles in their reincarnation of the 90s off-broadway rock musical Evo. Many of the banners throughout the stage were from the original show. Director Stev Guyer decided to bring this show he wrote with Jimmy Mak back, and I’m glad he did since I was not here to see the first version."
"A long time ago in a warehouse about two miles away, Shadowbox Live created its rock opera, “Evolution.” In the nearly two decades since, the company evolved to its current emphasis on cabaret and sketch comedy. “Evolution” evolved as well, losing its final two syllables and improving in almost every conceivable way."
"Over the past 25 years, Shadowbox Live has settled into a comfortable role as the troupe that plies viewers with skits, food, booze and rock tunes. It wasn’t always this way. Back in the early days, Shadowbox head honcho Stev Guyer was determined to create big, important works about big, important topics."
"To celebrate their 25th anniversary Shadowbox Live has reprised one of Stev Guyer’s original rock operas, 1995’s Evolution now simply titled Evo. I didn’t witness the initial production personally, but from what I’ve read and heard from those who did, Evo’s evolution is a dynamic improvement. And there is much to like about the show."
"Shadowbox Live’s most ardent fans may greet Evo like a grungy childhood friend who returns older and more polished but not much wiser. The experimental performance-rock piece, which opened last night at Shadowbox’s Brewery District space, offers a melange of emotions, ideas, themes, songs, dances, sketches and questions about human evolution — in particular, how far we haven’t come over the millennia."
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